School violence is a growing concern globally and schools in South Africa find it difficult to manage the problem of learner behaviour. Despite various educational policies and frameworks developed to preventing school violence, the system continues to fail teachers. Due to violence, schools are no longer safe places for teachers and learners. According to Montogomery (2019), research in the past has focused on the protection of learners against this phenomenon, giving little attention to teachers. Many teachers, who are being violated, threatened, and disrespected by learners as the perpetrators of violence, have been ignored. This is a concern with consequences for society, yet it remains an under-researched phenomenon (Pedraza, Berlanda, De Cordova, and Fraizzoli 2018; Espelage, Anderman, Brown, Jones et al., 2013).
In recent South African media reports about teachers across various quintile schools, being attacked by learners, it clearly shows an intent to inflict serious physical harm on the teacher. Most incidents in South Africa are not simply a matter of students expressing their frustration, but it is about the intention to be disruptive and unruly to show others how easy it is to intimidate teachers (Eraslan-Capan, 2014). Khumalo (2019) posits that learner misbehaviour and aggression can be considered as one of the most serious work-related stress factors in the teaching profession. It is capable of seriously reducing occupational well-being among teachers and prevent them from building positive relationships in the classroom. In a recent study conducted by Servaas and Gustafsson, presented at the recent National Dialogue for Teacher Supply and Demand 2030 (2022), our nation continues to face a shortage of qualified teachers, particularly in high needs areas where violence tends to be more pervasive and prevalent.
The study would be beneficial to all teachers, School Management Teams (SMTs), the Department of Basic Education (DBE), the South African Council for Educators (SACE), and all other relevant stakeholders who experience this phenomenon across South Africa.
The main research question for this study was ‘How can teachers be supported to prevent violence against them in schools?’ To investigate the primary question, the following secondary questions needed to be addressed:
- What types of violence do teachers experience in schools?
- What strategies can be used to support teachers from being violently abused at school by learners?
The significant issues emerging from this study were the presence of fear, intimidation and threats; the realities of the abuse / violence experienced in the workplace and a perceived lack of concern and support for teachers’ safety and well-being. The study contributes to other approaches the Department of Basic Education could adopt on handling learner violence. The solution lies in correcting the environment to produce a respectable citizen. To manage learner violence, there is a need to involve parents and various stakeholders. In order to create a conducive environment for learning, schools should adopt a psychosocial support system for its teachers.
Although the research findings of this study cannot be generalized, the study supports the value of strengthening the support available to teachers when facing traumatic acts of violence perpetrated by learners.
Anderman, E. M. et al. (2018) ‘Teachers’ reactions to experiences of violence: an attributional analysis’, Social Psychology of Education, 21(3), pp. 621–653. doi: 10.1007/s11218-018-9438-x.
Eraslan-Çapan, B. (2014) ‘Prospective Teachers’ Strategies to Cope with Possible Future Violence’, Education Sciences & Psychology, 28(2), pp. 41–63. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=98856562&site=ehost-live (Accessed: 22 Dec. 2020)
Espelage, D., Anderman, E.M., Brown, V. E., Jones, A., Lane, K. L., McMahon, S. D., Reddy, L. A. & Reynolds, C. R. 2013. Understanding and preventing violence directed against teachers: Recommendations for a national research, practice, and policy agenda. American Psychologist, 68(2): 75
Khumalo, S.S., 2019. Implications of school violence in South Africa on socially just education. e-Bangi, 16(8). https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/implications-ofschool-violence-in-south-africa-onKhumalo/9c4ecb85d040744b56e9b0f28fbf3fb363c52cca#citing-pap
Montgomery, J. L. H. (2019) ‘Teacher-Directed Violence – a Literature Review’, Journal Plus Education / Educatia Plus, 24, pp. 123–132. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=141061121&site=ehost-live (Accessed: 12 Oct. 2021)
Pedrazza, M., Berlanda, S., De Cordova, F. & Fraizzoli, M. 2018. The Changing Educators’ Work Environment in Contemporary Society. Frontiers in Psychology, [Online] 9. Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02186/full [Accessed 13 Nov. 2021]
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